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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 210, Part II, 30 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 210, Part II, 30 October 1998 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * DZURINDA APPOINTED SLOVAK PREMIER * KOSOVARS SAY SERBIAN FORCES REMAIN * ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS CALL FOR REFERENDUM BOYCOTT End Note: POWER GAMES WITH ALBANIA'S NEW CONSTITUTION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA STRESSES ECONOMIC TIES WITH RUSSIA... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 29 October said a clear-cut program on cooperation with Russia will be prepared soon, Interfax reported. Kuchma stressed that Ukraine is very dependent on Russia and "has a stake in Russia's stability." He criticized Moscow for not taking reciprocal steps to strengthen economic ties and recalled that Russia has not yet ratified the 1995 treaty on free trade with Ukraine. Kuchma repeated his proposal to create a free trade zone within the CIS, saying that the Customs Union (whose members are Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan) is "fictitious and does not work." JM ...LAMBASTES PARLIAMENT FOR NOT COOPERATING. Kuchma also criticized the parliament for its lack of cooperation with the executive, saying lawmakers take "months and years" to make economic decisions, while the current situation "calls for immediate intervention." Kuchma noted that "everybody wants a strong hand" at present and that he is "ready to take responsibility" for Ukraine. At the same time, he said he prefers the "European way" to "the Belarusian way, where all structures are puppet bodies and unanimously vote for all decisions." Kuchma also proposed to abolish the immunity and privileges of parliamentary deputies and to put the issue to a referendum. JM UKRAINE, POLAND SIGN MARKET REFORM COOPERATION PROGRAM. Ukraine and Poland have signed a cooperation program that, with U.S. assistance, will help Ukraine use Poland's experience in implementing market reforms, Western agencies reported. Stephen Sestanovich, adviser to the U.S. secretary of state on the "newly independent states," said at the signing ceremony in Kyiv on 29 October that the program will focus on macroeconomic and local government reforms, with special emphasis on the development of small businesses. The U.S. Agency for International Development is to provide the bulk of the funding for the program, which includes training for local government officials. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko commented that Poland's thriving economy is proof that Ukraine must pursue radical reforms, despite domestic calls to reconsider its economic policies. JM. BELARUS SAYS DIPLOMATIC HOUSING CONFLICT 'CLOSED.' Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich told journalists in Minsk on 29 October that the conflict over diplomatic residences at the Drazdy residential compound is "closed," Western agencies reported. Antanovich said all ambassadors who left Drazdy in June may return to their residences except for the envoys of the U.S., France, and Germany, whose residences have been "absorbed" by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's. He added that the three diplomats will be given options, including other residences at Drazdy located "a little bit further away" from the presidential house. Antanovich added that an EU official is in Minsk to discuss accommodation for evicted EU diplomats. JM BELARUS'S FOREIGN TRADE DEFICIT GROWS. Deputy Prime Minister Leanid Kozik said on 29 October that Belarus's foreign trade deficit from January-September 1998 totaled $1.2 billion, of which $967 million was with countries outside the former Soviet Union, Interfax reported. According to Kozik, the main reason for the growing foreign trade deficit is the decrease in exports to countries outside the former USSR. He also noted that Belarusian exports to Russia in September decreased by $170 million compared with August, resulting in a trade deficit with Russia for the first time this year. In Kozik's opinion, Belarus's close contacts with Russian regions provide a solid foundation for reversing the negative trend in trade with Russia. JM ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT RETURNS BUDGET UNCHANGED TO PARLIAMENT. The government on 29 October returned its 1999 draft budget to the parliament, one day after lawmakers had rejected the document as "overly optimistic" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1998), ETA and BNS reported. The government made no changes to the draft, but Prime Minister Mart Siimann said the cabinet is prepared to amend it if necessary. He noted that the forecast of 6 percent economic growth may be altered once statistics for the first 10 months of this year are available, adding that a decision will be made on 17 November. Siimann also noted that following the 28 October vote in the parliament, in which some ruling coalition deputies defected to the opposition, some important decisions are expected to be made soon about the situation within the coalition, according to ETA. JC LATVIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES SCHOOL LANGUAGE LAW. Members of the outgoing parliament have voted by 64 to 4 in favor of a law calling for Latvian to become the sole language of instruction in public schools, AP reported on 29 October, citing BNS. The measures are to be phased in over the next decade, and some class levels will switch to Latvian-only instruction as early as 2004. Russian will be allowed as the language of instruction in private schools and some special-education institutions. JC VAGNORIUS SAYS IGNALINA NO OBSTACLE TO EU ENTRY TALKS. Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius said on 29 October that the Ignalina nuclear power station is not an obstacle to starting EU membership talks, BNS reported. Vagnorius was commenting on a remark by Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas to Lithuanian Television that if Vilnius were not invited in December to start fast-track EU entry talks, Ignalina would be to blame. The premier stressed that the government will make a final decision on whether to shut down Ignalina based on the recommendation of a team of international experts. "We are not rich enough to make such a decision on purely political motives, but if experts say that it is not safe, we will follow their recommendations," Reuters quoted him as saying. JC GERMANY'S FISCHER BACKS POLAND'S EU MEMBERSHIP. New German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer assured Poland on 29 October that Bonn remains an advocate of the EU's eastward expansion, AP reported. "The creation of a unified Europe is in the interests of Germany," Fischer told journalists after talks with his Polish counterpart, Bronislaw Geremek, in Warsaw. Fischer declined to speculate on when Poland will join the EU, saying that EU entry negotiations should be based on both "political vision" and "realism." Fischer added that he and Geremek discussed the freedom of labor within the EU and land purchases by foreigners in Poland. Some Polish politicians believe that Germany's new government is afraid of an inflow of cheap Polish labor after the country's EU entry, while many Poles fear that rich Western investors may buy up real estate in Poland. JM POLISH GOVERNMENT WANTS NEW STATE TELEVISION BOARD. State Treasury Minister Emil Wasacz, who formally acts as the owner of Polish Television, wants to reform its supervisory board, PAP reported on 29 October. Wasacz has urged the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council to reduce the board's members from five to four, each of whom would represent one of the four main parties. The current board was constituted under the previous left-wing government and is dominated by leftists. Solidarity has unsuccessfully fought for equal representation on Polish Television's supervisory board since it won elections in October 1997. JM DZURINDA APPOINTED SLOVAK PREMIER. The newly elected Slovak parliament on 30 October voted to appoint Slovak Democratic Coalition leader Mikulas Dzurinda as the country's new premier, Reuters reported. The previous day, the new legislature convened for the first time and elected Party of the Democratic Left leader Jozef Migas as its new chairman. In an open letter to NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 29 October, the leaders of the coalition parties pledged to "introduce significant political and economic changes" and to set up a government "firmly devoted to the democratic principles, with full respect for the rule of law," AP reported. MS MECIAR RESIGNS PARLIAMENTARY SEAT. As was expected, outgoing Premier Vladimir Meciar has resigned as parliamentary deputy in favor of Ivan Lexa, the former head of the Slovak Intelligence Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1998), TASR reported. Lexa will now enjoy parliamentary immunity, making it impossible for the new government to seek to prosecute him for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVARS SAY SERBIAN FORCES REMAIN. Only a "small number" of Kosovars have returned to their homes in recent days, AP reported from Prishtina on 30 October. Refugees trying to go home said that they found many Serbian police or soldiers still in the area and that the Kosovars' former homes are no longer inhabitable. Spokesmen for shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) said that "there are so many Serbian troops, military and police, as well as combat hardware, that [such a] partial withdrawal cannot create the necessary confidence for the Albanian refugees and displaced persons to return back to their homes." The LDK's KIC news agency noted that some 25,000 Serbian security forces are allowed to remain in Kosova under a recent agreement between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and NATO generals and that only 4,100 troops were required to leave. KIC argued that a force of 2,500 would be sufficient to maintain order in Kosova. PM SESELJ VOWS TO FIGHT 'TERRORISM.' Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade on 29 October that "all armed terrorists will be disarmed and brought to justice. The withdrawal of police [from Kosova] does not mean the end of the fight against terrorism," by which he meant the fight against the Kosova Liberation Army. In Prishtina, Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije and ethnic Serbian political leader Momcilo Trajkovic issued a declaration accusing Milosevic of surrendering Serbian sovereignty over Kosova through his recent agreements with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke and NATO generals. Artemije and Trajkovic added that Milosevic's policies serve to take Kosova "out of the state of Serbia, abolish state sovereignty and jeopardize the territorial integrity of Serbia in [the province] because they withhold the right of republican and [Yugoslav] federal bodies" to carry out security functions in Kosova. PM YUGOSLAV ARMY WARNS DRAFT DODGERS. General Ratomir Ristic said that the General Staff will take legal measures against young men who do not respond to their induction notices, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 29 October. He added that the current amnesty law affects only those who disregarded their call-up notices up to the end of 1995. The general did not say how many young men have avoided their draft notices since then. Ristic noted that the army will accept Bosnian and Croatian Serb refugees as recruits and that it has asked the Interior Ministry for information to help the army update its information on potential draftees. PM GERMANY TO TAKE ACTIVE ROLE IN VERIFICATION. Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Bonn on 29 October that Germany will provide an unspecified number of unmanned surveillance aircraft to monitor Serbian compliance with UN demands in Kosova. Some 350 German soldiers will operate the aircraft from bases in Macedonia, dpa reported. Germany has already pledged to contribute 200 persons to the 2,000-strong OSCE civilian verification mission. The government has not yet said what it will contribute to NATO's planned rapid-reaction force, which will rescue the "verifiers" should they find themselves in danger. PM BRIEF BORDER OPENING BETWEEN CROATIA, MONTENEGRO. The authorities will open the border crossing at Debeli Brijeg on 1-2 November for the Roman Catholic All Saints' holiday, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica. Montenegro's nearby town of Kotor has a Roman Catholic minority. Both Podgorica and Zagreb have been urging the Belgrade authorities for some time to consent to permanently opening the crossing. Belgrade refuses to do so, however. PM CROATIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WANT EARLY ELECTIONS. Ivica Racan, who heads the leading opposition party, said in Zagreb on 30 October that Croatia needs parliamentary elections well before the scheduled date of January 2000 in order to "stop the rot" that has come to characterize the rule of President Franjo Tudjman and his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). "We want to have a democratic life and not an autocratic president and authorities. We don't want the whole country to depend on the intentions and sometimes even moods of one man.... Tudjman's concept of rule is used up.... The HDZ has run its historic course and used its options. The only thing they can do is generate a crisis and endanger...democracy," Racan added. The ruling establishment has recently been discredited by a series of scandals involving a split in its own ranks, the hidden wealth of Tudjman and his wife, dubious privatization practices, and the parliament's decision to approve high salaries for top government officials. PM DISCORD IN BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT. The opening session of the newly elected 83-member Republika Srpska legislature broke up in the early hours of 30 October after deputies failed to agree on a speaker and two deputy speakers. At the start of the session, some 19 Muslim and Croatian deputies walked out to protest the Serbian Orthodox elements in the swearing-in ceremony. The parliament will reconvene on 4 November to try to elect its own officials. Only after those three persons are elected can the president take office and appoint a prime minister. The moderate faction of outgoing President Biljana Plavsic and the more hard-line one of President-elect Nikola Poplasen have 32 seats each. PM ALBANIA TO FACE CRITICISM AT DONORS' CONFERENCE... Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told "Albanian Daily News" on 29 October that he expects foreign participants at an international donors' conference on 30 October in Tirana to criticize Albania for not meeting all the goals set at previous conferences one year ago. Milo said he nonetheless expects that the conference will approve a six-month emergency program to give Albania's new government time to fulfill those earlier promises. The participants at conferences in Rome and Brussels in 1997 pledged to give up to $600 million to help Albania recover from the anarchy that swept the country early that same year. Only about $200 million of that sum actually was paid to Albania, however, because the Albanian authorities failed to convince donors that the Albanians had a sufficient number of sound programs for which the money could be put to good use. FS/PM ...BUT KEY PROBLEMS REMAIN. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko's economic adviser Gramoz Pashko also told "Albanian Daily News" on 29 October that the governing coalition has not still succeeded in creating an administration able to make use of the promised funds. He added that the administration is plagued by corruption and unable to restore security. Albanians have yet "to understand the principles of civil society," he added. Observers note political polarization remains a major problem. In other news, Albanian and EU representatives on 28 October signed an agreement granting Tirana some $34 million to modernize agricultural production, infrastructure, and administration. FS ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS CALL FOR REFERENDUM BOYCOTT. The Democratic Party leadership on 29 October called for a boycott of the 22 November referendum on a new constitution. Party leader Sali Berisha announced the decision at a rally in central Tirana the same day, "Albanian Daily News" reported. He added, however, that Democratic Party members will be present, however, in the polling commissions to observe that the vote is free and fair (see "End Note" below). FS NEW TENSION AMONG ROMANIA'S COALITION PARTNERS. Nicolae Manolescu, chairman of the National Liberal Party's National Council, has harshly criticized the Democratic Party, saying the Democrats "wish to reform provided that nothing is changed." Manolescu's criticism was prompted by the Democrats' opposition to urgently debate in the Chamber of Deputies a new law on the restitution of nationalized houses and one on the protection of tenants, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 29 October. Tensions are also reported over the envisaged restructuring of the government. While the Democrats say they do not oppose a plan for reducing the number of cabinet members, they do oppose a law that would increase the size of restituted agricultural plots from 10 hectares to 50 hectares. They also want a state company for the management of state-owned land to be set up before further land restitution is approved. MS BUCHAREST MAYORAL CANDIDATE WITHDRAW. Several opposition parties in Bucharest announced this week that they are withdrawing their candidates from the race in favor of Sorin Oprescu, the candidate of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania. The mayoral race ballot is to be repeated on 1 November and will be considered valid regardless of turnout. The Party of Romanian National Unity, the Greater Romania Party, and the Alliance for Romania will all back Oprescu. The candidate of the Social Democratic Party has withdrawn from the race in favor of Democratic Party candidate Alexandru Sassu. On 24 October, acting Mayor Viorel Lis of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic won 41.6 percent of the vote, but the ballot was invalidated because of low turnout ( 34.3 percent). MS STALEMATE IN MOLDOVA-TRANSDNIESTER TALKS ON SECURITY ZONE... Joint Control Commission co-chairman George Carlan told journalists in Chisinau on 28 October that the commission has failed to reach a compromise with the Tiraspol delegation over how to reduce forces in the security zone, Infotag reported. Carlan said Tiraspol rejected a Moldovan proposal to reduce both personnel and military equipment. A Tiraspol representative said Moldova has more equipment in the zone and that it cannot agree to reduce personnel unless it can increase its military equipment. The March 1998 Odessa accords provide for 500 Moldovan, Russian, and Tiraspol troops each. Chisinau says it has 800 troops in the zone, while the separatists have 1,000 regular soldiers and another 2,000 serving in forces not controlled by the commission. Russia has 500 soldiers in the zone. MS ...AND IN PARLEYS ON TRANSDNIESTER SPECIAL STATUS. Viktor Garbuzov, deputy head of the Transdniester delegation to talks with Chisinau on the separatist region's envisaged "special status," said on 29 October that "all proposals" submitted by the Moldovan government are "negative." The two teams also submitted proposals on setting up a "joint economic space," the independent FLUX agency reported. The same day, Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc arrived in Moscow for talks on restoring rapidly deteriorating bilateral trade and economic ties and the situation in the Transdniester, ITAR-TASS reported. MS BULGARIA INTRODUCES ALTERNATIVE MILITARY SERVICE. The parliament on 29 October approved a law allowing for alternative military service for conscripts who object to using weapons. They will be able to choose between serving in non-combatant units or working in public health and social care centers. The law goes into effect on 1 January, AP reported. Alternative service will be allowed only in times of peace and will be twice as long as the standard service (36 months instead of 18). In other news, the government on 29 October announced Bulgaria is ready to participate in the implementation of the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement with one Antonov-30 reconnaissance aircraft. MS END NOTE POWER GAMES WITH ALBANIA'S NEW CONSTITUTION by Fabian Schmidt Albania's Socialist-led coalition government is preparing to hold a referendum on the long-awaited new constitution next month. Observers hope that the document will strengthen the rule of law, increase the powers of local government, and improve the efficiency of the administration by clearly defining the responsibilities of the various agencies. But less than a week after the parliament approved the constitution and announced the referendum, the constitution had become the object of a familiar political power game between the two largest parties. Opposition Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha said at a press conference earlier this week that his party will not approve the document. Repeating calls for new elections, he made it clear that the Democrats will draft their own constitution, which they intend to adopt once they have a majority in the parliament. Berisha said that "the majority of Albanians [was excluded] from the constitution drafting process" since the Socialists had not agreed to a roundtable of all political parties to discuss the document when his party was boycotting the legislature. He also criticized the current law whereby a simple majority of votes is sufficient to approve the constitution. The Democrats argue that a majority of all registered voters should be required to approve the draft. The Socialists reject the opposition charges and stress that it is the Democrats' own fault since they boycotted the parliament for most of this year, thus excluding themselves from the drafting process. They also claim that they repeatedly urged the opposition to participate in that process but the Democrats were unwilling to make their opinion heard. The conflict between the Socialists and the Democrats is one of form rather than of content. Some constitutional experts from the Democratic Party have told journalists in Tirana that the party does not have any substantial complaints about the draft. Furthermore, the Democrats have failed to come forward with concrete suggestions. So what are the main reasons for the dispute? On one hand, the Democrats remain unwilling to take part in the regular parliamentary drafting process because such participation would make it more difficult to continue to question the legitimacy of the legislature. On the other hand, the Socialists, who have a two-thirds majority in the parliament, refuse to subject the issue of the constitution to a multi-party roundtable because acceptance of such a parallel institution to the parliament would imply that the legislature indeed lacks legitimacy. Moreover, agreeing to a roundtable, similar to the one that mediated the creation of a multi-party interim government in spring 1997, would be only the first step toward new elections. The government knows that if it tries to base its policy on too broad a consensus and surrenders power to an all- party roundtable, it would risk becoming paralyzed and unable to tackle the country's urgent problems. A roundtable of sorts, nonetheless, took place on 25 October. But because the content of the constitution was not up for debate, the Democrats declined to attend. Instead, the governing coalition partners and representatives from the smaller center-right Republican Party agreed not to campaign on behalf of the constitution in order to avoid further political polarization of that document. The parties also said they hope that the referendum, which is to be held on 22 November, will not develop into a political battle between parties, agreeing that the parliamentary drafting commission will explain the content of the draft to the electorate through the media. And they suggested that non-governmental organizations, rather than political parties, should be involved in organizing the referendum. But these parties are unlikely to succeed in keeping party politics out of the referendum. The Democrats have made it clear that they will use the run- up to the referendum to acquire leverage against the government and to eventually force new elections. The electorate is therefore more likely to view the plebiscite as a referendum on the current government rather than on the basic law. This is a situation similar to the 1994 referendum, when Berisha, in his capacity at the time as president, proposed a constitution that the electorate turned down. That result was viewed by many as a vote of no confidence in Berisha rather than in the document. The latest draft constitution has already become politicized, and even if it is approved by a popular referendum, it will likely remain a political football among rival politicians. How much this slows down the building of democratic institutions will depend on the electorate. If the voter turnout is high and a clear majority of voters cast their ballot in favor, the document is likely to remain in force for years to come. In such a case, it would be more difficult for subsequent governments to change the constitution whenever they please than if turnout were low and the majority slim. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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